Egan: rules are unsatisfactory for reluctant racers
The Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan has stated the rules relating to whether a horse has officially started a race are “unsatisfactory” for punters following Labaik’s latest no-show at Punchestown on Tuesday.
Labaik is declared to run in Friday's Betdaq Champion Hurdle, having completed the course in his own time in the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday.
On his previous outing he had destroyed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle field but had gone to Cheltenham having refused to jump off with the rest of the field at Naas, before completing the course on his own terms, 71 lengths behind the second-last finisher.
On that occasion he was returning from a 42-day ban that had been handed out by the Navan stewards after he refused to race for the second time in a row. There is no precise ruling to deal with the issue and Egan indicated that such matters are at the discretion of the stewards on any given day.
"The situation at the moment is unsatisfactory but it's not simple,” he said on Wednesday. “There are two sides. One side is the people who backed the horse and there's absolutely no doubt they got no run for their money yesterday.
"The other side is the owners of any horse and whether or not that horse is capable of winning prize-money. If there's a small field, and a horse jumps off slowly but eventually makes up the ground, you can't deprive the owner of the chance to make prize-money. So we've got to try and reconcile both positions.”
In finishing a remote last of the seven runners on Tuesday, Labaik failed by one place to pick up prize-money. Elliott has opted to change jockeys and apply headgear for Friday’s Grade 1, for which his enigmatic performer trades at between 10-1 and 16-1.
“He's a very, very good horse but he's tricky,” Elliott said.
“If he jumps off one in four runs, that’s good. I can’t guarantee he's going to jump off on Friday, but we have put a set of visors on him and we're putting Davy Russell on him. Jack Kennedy hasn’t done one thing wrong on him and he'll be back on him after Friday, but it’s worth trying something different.”